If DadCentric was my child, I’d be facing neglect charges. The fact that I never post on DadCentric serves as a constant source for the renewal of my self-loathing. I post on my own site 3-4 times a week because I’m selfish. I hit my 1 PM slot every Monday over at MamaPop because the overlords over there maintain an exacting structure. So why do I treat DadCentric like some unwanted stepchild locked in a closet with a door that has a mail slot through which I rarely stuff food? I don’t know. Perhaps I have an image of myself as a Bad Father that maintains itself in spite of my will. You know? Like, it doesn’t matter how much I want to write for DadCentric – maybe my negative sense of myself as a Bad Father trumps my desires and forces me to miss all its baseball games via subterranean motives beneath the horizon of consciousness. Who knows? I like to spin theories about mysterious forces though. Makes me feel weird and opaque to myself. Then I can get drunk and come home late and blame the mysterious forces.
You will of course object. DadCentric is not my child. If it’s anybody’s child, it’s Jason the Pet Cobra’s child. My guiding metaphor has crumbled and meaning is lost. I have, however, re-conceived DadCentric as a cute little Baby Cobra.
But not so fast. This image of myself as a Bad Father does trouble me. I tend to relativize Bad Fathering in a way that seeks to let my own Bad Fathering off the hook. For instance, when my 10-year-old son looks bored and unfathered, I justify further neglect with the following mantra in my mind: “I had 3 Dads by the time I was your age and the middle one beat my Mom and died drunk. You wouldn’t know a Bad Dad if he bit you in the ass. Run along and have fun.”
It’s bullshit, I know. Sometimes, I tend to just shoot for less shitty, and it’s lame. I’m not looking for anyone to jump in and tell me I’m too hard on myself, that I’m a great Dad, etc. What I’m looking for is the way you understand your own Daddedness. Do you fee like a Good Dad? A Bad Dad? What?
I feel like from age 9 on I had a Good Dad. There are things I want to improve upon, but I’m not bitching on Oprah or anything. But something I’ve recognized is that I had nothing to draw upon to get these kids through their first decades. I had to construct my own concept and experience of Fatherhood out of nothing. And sometimes my best solution was hiding, shrinking from the call of Fatherhood. But other times it’s felt like my most grandiose work: Fatherhood as a work of art. Something made on my terms.
Sometimes it’s conscious. Other times, I am a Father to my children effortlessly, as if helping Lucy ride a bike was as natural as a fish swimming. Sometimes I feel like a Good Dad in spite of myself. And sometimes I finish a post for DadCentric, in spite of contrary unconscious forces.